More than 500 nurses and other workers walked off the job before dawn Monday at several Bay Area hospitals, disgruntled by proposed layoffs that they say would cripple delivery of care.
The one-day strike shuttered outpatient services at two of Alameda County Medical Center's hospitals and three satellite clinics, which typically serve 1,000 patients a day. Emergency rooms and trauma centers remained open.
Labor leaders said that healthcare workers already suffered from low numbers and that the 200 proposed cuts, an estimated 10% of the workforce, could seriously harm their ability to serve the county's neediest patients.
"I am tired of being short-staffed every day," said Jonna Freskos, 37, an intensive care unit nurse and one of more than 200 picketing nurses, orderlies and clerks who rallied outside Oakland's Highland Hospital on Monday. "Basic needs of the patients are not being met. They are forcing the nurses to do multiple jobs and still expect us to deliver quality patient care."
The latest planned cuts come six months after voters approved a half-cent sales tax hike intended to boost the county's public healthcare programs, particularly the center's struggling network of hospitals and clinics.
At the time, the center had eliminated 100 jobs and closed two of its outpatient clinics, leaving only three others open.
The center's budget has been running in the red for at least four years and will have an estimated deficit of more than $70 million this year, said spokesman Mike Brown. It also owes the county $190 million, he said.
Healthcare workers said the measure's $90-million estimated annual infusion should stave off any additional job losses, but Brown said the proposed cuts were still needed to balance the 2004-05 budget.